Sheriffs, and Racists, and Koch: Oh My!

Sheriff's Badge

Sheriff’s Badge

A little over a month ago there was a minor kerfuffle about our Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions saying that;

Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process…The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.

A great hullabaloo ensued. What did Sessions mean about this “Anglo-American heritage” stuff? Did he think only white folks built our laws? And “heritage” isn’t that a dog whistle to neo-Confederates who are always talking about their heritage of the South (meaning white supremacy)? There was reason for people to be suspicious, after all “Sessions is a well-documented white supremacist who” is “hot for incendiary racist behavior.”  Coretta Scott King had this guy nailed thirty years ago, not that it has stood in his way in his rise to power.

Calmer voices soon urged everyone to calm down. Sessions was merely invoking English common law which is, indeed, an important part of our legal heritage. While Sessions certainly is capable of racist dog whistles, they said, this probably wasn’t one. I had another thought at the time, however. It wasn’t the “Anglo-American heritage” part of his remarks. It was the “sheriffs” part that might have been the dog whistle. And that brings us back to the Koch Foundation’s funding of a right wing ideologue to educate prisoners in civics and to a guy named W. Cleon Skousen.

Continue reading

Koch and the Neo-Confederate

People bowing down to a dollar sign.

Is it the case that whoever pays the piper calls the tune?

We can combine two interesting bits of recent news productively.

Koch and the Neo-Confederate

The first is the news comes courtesy of the student group, UnKoch my Campus. It seems one of Charles Koch’s many foundations disbursed money to Florida Atlantic professor Marshall DeRosa to start a classes in civics education for prisoners returning to society. DeRosa was a one-time member of the League of the South (LOS) a neo-Confederate hate group.  As The Nation concludes:

The reality of the situation is staggering: An academic who worked with a neo-Confederate organization is teaching inmates, including many of color, a curriculum he designed, funded by one of the wealthiest conservative political donors in the country and instituted at the facilities of a notorious, predatory private-prison company that is accused of violating federal anti-slavery laws.

The Charles Koch foundation has scrubbed their article touting their connection to DeRosa (fortunately, the internet never forgets). And, even after DeRosa left the LOS for the (supposedly) more respectable Abbeville Institute, his views are still reactionary and ill-informed. What should we make of this? Is it reasonable to think that DeRosa’s prison activities are benign? Is it reasonable to think that the Koch Foundation just didn’t know about his unsavory past and present views and associations?

The Jews Control the Weather

The second bit of news was when a DC councilman claimed that the incoming snow on the Atlantic coast was the result of a conspiracy:

“There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities,” said White, according to video footage that the city routinely releases after official meetings. “They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.”

The councilman later explained that he had no idea that invoking the Rothschilds was invoking an old antisemitic slur.  So, while he meant to say that a shadowy cabal controlled the weather, he certainly didn’t mean that a shadowy cabal of Jews controlled the weather.

In both cases a reasonable question is: while the Koch Foundation and the DC Councilman might have been ignorant that they were linking themselves to racist ideas, should they have known? It is an interesting historical question worth exploring.

Continue reading

On the Prehistory of Holocaust Denial

 

Skull on top of a book.

My very first blog post was this one. It was on the “softcore Holocaust denial” of one of the first actions of the then-new Trump administration: remembering the Holocaust without mentioning the genocide of European Jews. The guy I thought chiefly responsible for this statement was Sebastian Gorka who is no longer with the administration. He’s now landed a gig with an antisemitic website. The good news is that he’ll be in Canada so…..   Well, that really isn’t good news, is it? He’s still around being a racist jerk.

A year later, Holocaust denial is back in the news. Arthur Jones, bona fide neo-Nazi and denier is running, unopposed, for Congress in Illinois (I hate Illinois Nazis). In Poland, it is now illegal to claim that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust.  Holocaust denial, in its endless variety, is still out there. It is time, therefore, to take another look at it.

Continue reading

The Anti-Racism of Rose Wilder Lane

A picture of Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968)

Whether you realize it or not you’ve probably read the words of Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968). She was the daughter of famed children’s book author,  Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose Little House books have delighted several generations of children (and adults) and which were adapted into a long-running, if somewhat mawkish television show. For all intents and purposes, Rose, an accomplished journalist and novelist in her own right, co-authored those books with her mother.

She was also one of the “three furies” of libertarianism. In 1943 three women published books that are considered important sources of modern libertarian thought. The best-known is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.  Also in the annus mirabiles were Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine and Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom. These books have often marked Rand, Paterson, and Lane the “founding mothers of American libertarianism.”

Albert Jay Nock, the dean of American individualist/libertarian writers was deeply impressed by Lane. Writing to a correspondent he declared:

You must read The Discovery of Freedom. I don’t know who Sister Lane is. but she is a credit to the Cause, I assure you.

On anything basic she always shoots straight to centres, and hits damn hard. Another odd thing is that while she has the philosophy of individualism down fine, she seems to have got it entirely out; of her own head. There is no evidence that she has read the individualist writers, and considerable evidence that she has not–I believe she hasn’t. I think this is a remarkable achievement, and darned creditable. I’m all for Rose.

Continue reading

Trump’s Shithole Logic

Drawing of an outhouse

Trump thinks that we don’t need immigrants from shithole countries like Haiti, El Salvador, or the entire continent of Africa. Instead he thinks we should let more Norwegians in. Since a racist is a person who consistently makes racist remarks, Trump is a racist. Naturally, Fox News insists that pointing out Trump’s racism is the real racism. Just for the record: calling out racism is not racist. Being a racist is racist. Trump is a racist. The logic behind his statement is racist logic. Here’s why.

Continue reading

The Origins of Holocaust Denial

A Map depicting Nazi concentration camps.

We are only a few weeks away from International Holocaust Remembrance Day: January 27. If you will remember, last year the Trump administration marked the day without mentioning that Jews were special victims of the Nazi regime and called the critics of of its silence asinine and and pathetic. To my knowledge, the administration has never apologized for this or amended what they said. Who knows what kind of insulting statement is in store for this year.

In anticipation of that fateful day, it might be worthwhile to explore the origins of Holocaust denial in the United States. Who was the first American to deny that the Nazis exterminated six million Jews and what was the basis for their denial?

Continue reading

Ayn Rand on Racism

The cover of a pulp magazine, FAMOUS FANTASTIC STORIES listing Ayn Rand's Anthem on the cover.

I’ve been purposefully avoiding discussing Ayn Rand on this blog. The reasons are entirely personal. I, like many of you I’m betting, had too many pointless discussions with Rand devotees when I was in my twenties. Like arguing with a three-year old, it was all very tiresome. Still, some of those emotionally and intellectually stunted Rand devotees are now ruining the country for us all. But, it is a New Year and all, so I decided to start things off by holding my nose and discussing Rand. Hold your nose if you must.

My topic is Rand’s 1963 essay on “Racism” which is often held up as proof that libertarians can’t be racists! This is usually accomplished by taking some choice quotations from the essay, most often the opening paragraph:

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Strong stuff! Rand has never been criticized for being insufficiently provocative. Reading the rest of the essay, however, shows how deeply flawed Rand’s thinking about racism was.

Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

Stylized sign reading

Good news everybody! Our long national nightmare is over. For the first time in almost a decade, we can say “Merry Christmas” to each other again! Thanks to our Glorious Leader!  What’s that? You are one of the 76% of Americans who think that the whole “War on Christmas” thing is a lie “made up for political reasons?”  Yeah, me too.  So, from Santa and me, Merry Christmas!

So, here on Christmas Eve, here are some Alt-Right-free tidbits for you!

Continue reading

Want to Read A Sample Chapter?

A telegraph with the caption: "Hot off the Wire."

Hey! Remember this post? The one where I threatened promised to share some of the book I’ve been writing? I know you’ve been waiting on tenterhooks but now the wait is over. So put the tenterhooks away. Honestly, I don’t even know where you got those tenterhooks. Are those my tenterhooks? Did you borrow my tenterhooks without even asking me? Get your own tenterhooks!  Honestly, some people……

So, a few words about what I’m offering up on the sacrificial alter of the Internet. This is a first stab at a “sample chapter” which will eventually become part of a book proposal. According to Susan Labiner in Thinking Like Your Editor:

A sample chapter is not really a chapter at all. It looks and smells like a chapter, in that it usually runs about a chapter’s length and had a beginning, middle, and end. But like no chapter in the your final book, it succeeds by cannibalizing other chapters, stealing the best material in the book and presenting it in such a way as to showcase the dramatic potential of the book or the power of the argument, or the richness of the topic.

Did I do that? Who knows? Its a first draft and, as my freshman writing instructor told me college, “The first draft is supposed to be shit.” Or to be more hopeful: The first draft has the same relationship to the final draft as compost to roses.  So, follow the link and give it a read. If you want to send me comments  criticisms, please do so. These can range from large conceptual problems you see as well as spotting typos and formatting errors. There are undoubtedly a lot of problems. Tell me about them.

The Sample_Chapter